Search engine optimization and the war to rank higher in SERPs is getting tougher day by day. The possibility of succeeding in narrow niches is also getting lesser with billions of people trying to establish an online presence for their businesses.
In such a scenario, it is very necessary to keep a close eye on your top competitors and spy on their SEO efforts. Knowing all the profitable keywords that your competitors are using in their SEO efforts will help you devise a better strategy to outrank them.
FINDING COMPETITOR’S KEYWORDS
We will be using Ahrefs itself as our example competitor in this read and try to use different ways to find out keywords that are important for ahrefs. Competitor keyword analysis is not a rocket science. You will fall in love with it.
Analyzing Competitors’ Inbound Anchor Texts
The best way to find some important keywords that are being focused in SEO strategy is analyzing anchor texts that are being used to link back to competitor’s website. Tools like AHREFS have made this task a piece of cake. Grab the URL and run it through ahrefs site explorer.
After hitting the “Try it for free” button go to Inbound Links >> Anchors to find out the anchor texts that are linking back to the website. You can’t find out all the anchors for free but with a paid subscription package you will be able to stalk completely. The results will be shown this way.
By default, the results are arranged in an order starting from the most used anchor text. To gather more anchor texts without a paid subscription of ahrefs, you can use other similar websites like Moz Open Site Explorer, Semrush or any other good site explorer. Every tool gives you valuable information about the anchor texts being used by the competitors.
You don’t need to bother about branding anchor texts of your competitor but about all the niche relevant anchors.
I ran ahrefs through some other site explorers too and it is evident that the most used anchor text to link back to this website is “ahrefs” and then “ahrefs.com” and so on. Since ahrefs is a huge brand name, many people link back to it with its name and not with texts like backlinks checker, site explorer etc.
However with a paid subscription package or by using some other tools mentioned earlier, if you do some digging, you will find that many links are coming from anchor texts like “site explorer, backlinks checker, live link index etc”. As earlier told, you need the terms that are not brand names.
Analyzing Competitors’ Top Search Terms
Finding out search terms that are bringing the most traffic to your competitors’ website can’t be ignored here. For this, you can use already mentioned tools as well as Alexa. Just run the URL through Alexa and scroll down to “Top Keywords from Search Engines” section. Here is a screen shot of top traffic bringing search terms for ahrefs:
Semrush, along with other important information also shows what percentage of a search term’s traffic volume is your competitor getting. In the image below you can see that 94% of people searching for the term mentioned in the first row are visiting my website (Just a little bragging about myself 🙂 ).
I ran Ahrefs.com through SEMRUSH. Here are the results:
You can use these results to gather loads of valuable information about your competitor. For example:
- Arrange the results in ascending order of “Pos” column (Position column) to see the terms for which your competitor outranks everybody else
- Arrange them in descending order of “Volume” to see the anchor text with the greatest search volume your competitor is trying to rank for or for which he has somehow ranked somewhere
- Arrange the results in descending order of “Traffic %” to see the terms for which your competitor has highest search traffic share % as compared to other ranking search terms
- Arrange them in order of CPC to see the terms that have highest CPC among all those your competitor is ranking for.
All this information is gold and if you know how to use it, you can device a very good plan and start your project with very good keywords.
Analyzing Competitors’ Onpage Efforts
Next step is to look at the website itself. Go to the source code of the site because it shows you much more than the front end. To open the source code right click anywhere on the page and click on “View page source” (The option is pretty much same for all browsers).
Skimming through source code to find things like headings, metadata, alt tags is not easy. You can use the on-page search functionality of browsers to find required content on a page. Press Ctrl + F and type in required term to find it on the page.
The most important keywords are often used in headings (h1, h2 etc). To find them press control + F and type in “<h1” to highlight all the h1 tags. Make a note of the terms in source code that are being used in between these tags and repeat the step for h2 and h3 with “<h2” and “<h3” as search terms.
The tags have been left intentionally open (without closing > sign) to allow some variations of heading tags to appear in search results like <h1 class=”font40 line12 top20 light”>
This is the source code for ahrefs’ home page. Upon searching for the <h1> tags, I found that the page has a total of five h1 tags that are using these keywords: site explorer, backlink checker, largest index of live backlinks, link batches, backlink reports and crawl reports.
The page had no h2 tags and five h3 tags. Carry out a similar search on your competitor’s website and save all the niche-relevant keywords being used in headings.
Find “meta” on the page in the same manner.
I have highlighted the meta description of the homepage. You can make note of important keywords here such as index of live links & site explorer
Image Alt Tags
This is another great way of finding competitor’s important keywords. Search for “alt” in the source code of the page. All the “alt” tags will be highlighted. Go through and save the words in between “” signs.
This is one of the image alt tags in our example page. A total of 7 alt tags appeared on the page while only four had some relevant keywords in it.
This way of competitor keyword analysis is by far my favorite as it exactly shows their intentions.You have already won the SEO war if you know your rival's intentions Click To Tweet
Save all the relevant keywords you found spying on your competitor. There are several approaches you can use to rank in the same niche:
- If the keywords found are easy to rank, use them in your SEO campaigns straight away
- If they are hard to rank, do some keyword research using the found keywords as seed keywords and find more easy to rank keywords. Once you start ranking for those keywords, it will be much easier for you to rank for more difficult ones
This strategy of competitor keyword analysis sometimes blesses you with some high potential keywords that you had totally ignored. Another benefit of using this way is that you will have to do less of keyword research as you are using your competitors’ hard found keywords with very little efforts. So, let’s do some experiments and climb up the SERPs.